By Vince Teresi
Kennedy High School’s football team is becoming known for not only what it accomplishes on the field but off it.
The team took second place in the state OSAA 2A game in 2009. Team members also raised enough money to build a home for a needy family in Peru.
The 2010 Kennedy football team doubled that effort by raising enough money to build two homes in Peru. Players and coaches recently raised more than $24,000 during the second annual Huts to Homes Benefit Barbecue. Construction on the first new home has begun, with the second home scheduled for completion in early December.
The homes are located in the shantytown of Flores de Villa in the outskirts of Lima, Peru, where many residents live in cardboard or scrap plywood structures with dirt floors. Their “dream” is to have a “real” house built with brick and mortar.
The Huts to Homes project is striving to make those dreams a reality. Kennedy High coach David Stavros lived in Peru and is familiar with the conditions there, as well as knowing residents in the area. He has been instrumental in connecting the Kennedy football players to the people in Lima, Peru.
Recipient of the first home is the Yolanda Crispin family. Yolanda’s husband abandoned her and their three children seven years ago when she was pregnant with her youngest child.
Yolanda sells apples in the street to make a living. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “I have no extended family and often I feel very lonely. This new house that the football team is building for me will always be a testament to me that we will always have a place to lie down at night. I am so very grateful. It still seems like a dream to me.”
Construction on the second home will begin in October. The recipient is the Walter and Marta Berrocal family, with four children ages 6 to 17. Walter is a taxi driver. He rents the car he drives and often does not have enough to guarantee the minimum payment he needs to rent the car the next day.
Marta washes clothes by hand for neighbors, sells candy in the street, and collects cardboard from the dump to sell for recycling to feed her family.
Upon receiving the news about the building of her new house, Marta said in awe, “As a mother, it is difficult to express how thankful I am. Now my children will have a home where they will be able to grow, developing into teens and then someday have their own families here…a home where I will be able to grow old as long as God gives me life.”
Walter haltingly said, “The tears you see are tears of joy. No matter how hard I worked, I could never have provided my family with a decent roof over their heads; food on the table, yes, but a house…never. Thank you so much for this incredible news!”
Kennedy High head football coach Randy Traeger has been pleased with the progress of the Huts to Homes project.
“It is our team’s ongoing commitment to charity, and we appreciate the community’s support of our endeavors,” he said. “Through this project, our players are learning firsthand about charity for others and how we can all reach out across thousands of miles and change people’s lives.”
The Kennedy High football program is part of the Sports Leader National organization that emphasizes the building of character and sportsmanship within the student-athlete along with development of athletic skills.